By Jonathan Ugbal
No fewer than two thousand homes may in the long run lose their homes if the threats on Akpaven Integrated Services, the contractor handling the four fingers of the Ikot Nkebre gully erosion project for the Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) are not curbed.
CrossRiverWatch visited the community last week where work has seized for some time due to the activities of hoodlums whom findings reveal may have been sponsored by state actors.
Findings reveal that the project, which suffered an unnecessary delay for over one year due to the refusal of the Cross River State Government to approve about three Interim Payments Certificates (IPC), resumed after the contractor reached an agreement with suppliers of materials.
But, about a fortnight ago, thugs attacked staff of the contractors who lift laterite from obot Okoho near Bacoco. Some were arrested and later released following pressure from “people close to government,” security sources said.
Also, some equipment seized by the State have remained in its custody despite denials that state actors were not behind the thugs.
And, residents have raised an alarm over what they termed an interference that will lead to their extinction.
“We are pleading that whosoever is behind the harassment of the contractor and workers on-site should please stop forthwith for the sake of this community. The contractor has recovered some areas that were totally eaten off by the erosion. They have done a good job so far, they should be allowed to continue,” said Etim Edem-Effiom, the Community Liaison Officer of the contractor told newsmen.
He continued: “Before now, over 40 buildings collapsed in this area and some people died in the process. The contractor came on board and helped some people in recovering their houses.”
The Project Director of Akpaven Integrated Services, Engr. George Brown said that work on the four fingers has reached 95 percent completion with the only remediation work left to be carried out.
“We had some invasion about three weeks ago from hoodlums. They came in on the pretext that we were not paying mining levies. “From our records and the interactions we have with relevant tax agencies and consultants, we have paid all levies to accrue to the state even up to the end of April.
“We have updated all our revenues, but the faceless hoodlums came in on the pretext of revenue. The State Internal Revenue Service has not come to seal us or any other agency of government over tax default.
“On the day the hoodlums struck, national officials from the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project were in our facility. They beat up our workers and seized our trucks as well,” he said.
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